Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made an appearance on MLB Network Radio this morning, where he talked for nearly four minutes about Ricky Nolasco’s elbow, which is being examined today in Minnesota.
We transcribed a couple of the highlights, and you’ll find the audio of the entire segment on Nolasco via this link. (Also, this will make three consecutive posts within three hours on Nolasco. We promise we’re not obsessed. It’s just how things work sometimes).
On how long Nolasco has been dealing with an elbow issue: “He said he’s had it since spring training … He said, ‘I don’t want to make excuses for my performance or anything like that, but he said my elbow, I had this in ’07 and I think I can pitch through it. That’s when we said, you know, the best thing for us – we’ve got him signed to a pretty good contract here, and we need him down the road here — so let’s send him back, get this thing checked out.”
On the next steps: “In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, if a guy is telling me his elbow is bothering him, there’s no way he’s going to make a start on Friday. But I think the big thing here is to find out what’s wrong with his elbow, give him the time he needs, and he’ll probably end up on the DL. That’s the best guess.”
Between them, Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco are making $35 million to play baseball for the Twins this season, eating up roughly 40 percent of the team’s payroll (it was even more before the mid-season acquisition of Kendrys Morales).
Even at slightly more modest salaries, those two would have to rank high among the biggest disappointments on this year’s team. It’s fair to say that if both were performing to at least career expectations — that is to say, at least close to providing the numbers that earned them those hefty salaries — the Twins, given everything else that has happened this year, would be around .500 instead of floundering now at 10 games below that mark. Indeed, even without much contribution from either player the Twins spent most of the first half of the season right around even.
Those contracts made Mauer and Nolasco obscenely wealthy, so do not mistake this as some sort of pity party for them. But we would say that there is a certain on-field burden that comes with a hefty salary, particularly when it comes to this, um, frugal market and fan base.
No longer are you simply underachieving … you’re underachieving and overpaid. No longer does a sentence simply say, “Nolasco needs to pitch better,” but rather: “For $12 million a year, Nolasco needs to pitch better.”
And when you get hurt — Mauer is on the DL, and Nolasco is having his elbow examined — you’re not simply injured. Your toughness gets called into question because of the money you make.
Salary does not guarantee results. Just ask the many other players aside from Mauer among the top-10 in salary this season who are struggling, injured, or both.
Criticism comes with the territory, and pretty much every one of us would accept these “burdens” if it meant making millions to play a game. But there’s no doubt a big contract changes perceptions, particularly when you play in Minnesota.